Meringues are fun to make and can make perfect additions to almost any dessert. Sadly, though, meringues can be tricky to make if you are not highly experienced in making them.
One common problem is the meringue not peaking. So, why would your meringue not peak?
There are several reasons why your meringue may not have peaked well; these include not adding tartar to the mixture, your meringue mixture was exposed to fat or oil, you simply haven’t beaten the eggs enough, you added the sugar in too fast, your eggs might have been too cold, to name a few.
When your meringues are not peaking as you would have hoped, this can be pretty disappointing, and it can discourage many bakers from making meringues again.
But don’t be discouraged; there are ways you can fix the problem and avoid it in the future, so keep reading!
Reasons Why Your Meringue Is Not Peaking
Making meringue for a pie or pavlova is a fun task and is a great way to add a bit of pizazz to almost any dessert. However, meringue can be challenging to get right, and some problems can arise if you are not careful.
Numerous people face one problem: their meringue won’t create the lovely, soft peaks they need to ensure your meringue is light and fluffy. This can be quite disappointing for any baker and can have you questioning where you went wrong. So, let’s go through the reasons your meringue may not be peaking.
1 – You Didn’t Add the Tartar to the Egg Whites
Most recipes for meringue have an ingredient listed called tartar. This element plays an essential role in making meringues, and it helps create the peaks you need for meringues to come out wonderfully.
Tartar is mildly acidic that will help provide your meringue with structure; therefore, making it easier to get the volume of peaks you desire from your meringue. If you did not add the tartar into your meringue mixture, you would struggle to get the peaks you need for a perfect meringue.
To get your desired results, you only need to add about ¼ teaspoon of tartar into the mix. Alternatively, you can use some lemon juice, about ½ teaspoon, as this will do the same job as the tartar. Always follow the recipe of your meringue to the letter!
2 – Your Meringue Was Exposed to Oil or Fat
If your meringue mixture was exposed to oil or fat, this would reduce or stop the formation of the meringue peaks as you will not be able to whip enough air into the egg whites. The amount of oil or fat needed to affect your meringue is as little as some leftover residue on the bowl you are using.
It could also be a small bit of egg yolk that may have gone unnoticed in your egg whites while you were separating the eggs. All this will prevent your egg whites from foaming correctly to form the peaks you need.
Unfortunately, there is no solution for this one, so you will need to start a new batch of meringue. Ensure you wash out the bowl thoroughly and separate the eggs carefully.
3 – You Haven’t Beaten the Eggs Long Enough
If you look at your meringue and it looks soggy and watery, this could be due to two reasons. Firstly, are you sure you have beaten your eggs for long enough? Secondly, if you are using an electric beater, was it at a high enough speed?
You need to beat your meringue mix for about 15 minutes, and it needs to be beaten fast to allow air to penetrate the mixture properly. If you haven’t beaten your meringue for long enough, try to beat it a bit more and see if that helps. Ensure you are going at a fast speed too.
4 – You Used Cold Eggs
When you made your meringue, did you let the eggs come to room temperature before placing them in your meringue mixture, or did you use them straight from the fridge?
If you answered straight from the fridge, then this could be the reason why your meringue is not forming peaks as it should. When the egg whites are cold, it’s more difficult for air to penetrate them to make them fluffy as the eggs are more gelatinous.
When making meringue, always take your eggs out of the fridge at least one hour before you start so that the eggs can reach room temperature.
It may be possible to form a meringue with cold eggs, but you would have to beat them for much longer than you would otherwise.
5 – You Used Old Eggs
When making meringue, the freshness of the eggs you use is vital to the process. So, you need to use the freshest eggs you can get to make your meringue. This is because when eggs are fresh, they are acidic.
This acidity is important as it helps the proteins in the whites of the egg stay tightly knit, which will help the meringue form lovely peaks. If the eggs you are using are slightly old, the egg will be more alkaline.
This will cause the proteins in the egg to pull apart from each other, and the whites will become thinner. This will cause your meringue’s peaks to be small or non-existent.
6 – You Added the Sugar Too Fast
When making meringue, you need to add the sugar into the mix slowly, or you could end up with some problems, one being that your meringue won’t form peaks. To understand why this is, you need to understand sugar’s role in making meringue.
When the sugar is whisked into the egg whites, the sugar dissolves into the protein film that surrounds the air bubbles in the mixture as it is whisked. This dissolved sugar helps the proteins in the egg whites stay moist and not bind too tightly together, which would release the air.
The sugar will also help draw water out of the egg whites and trap it in the air bubbles. Then when the meringue is baked, this water can easily evaporate. All this helps stabilize the meringue and create the peaks you are looking for. So, you should always add the sugar in one tablespoon at a time.
Unfortunately, there are several reasons why your egg whites are not forming the lovely, fluffy peaks you were hoping for. You need to troubleshoot a bit to try and find which one of the problems listed above is the one that is causing you problems, but you should be able to fix it, or worst-case scenario, you might need to start over.
Good luck with your meringue!
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.